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Choose Your Own Adventure

May 8, 2012


When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure stories, loved being able to choose the fate of the characters and affect the outcome of their lives. But it also made me nervous, having that kind of responsibility. Whenever I reached the bottom of a page where I had to make a decision, I nervously weighed the options. Sometimes, if I was especially uncertain of my choice and connected enough to a character to care, I would cheat and read a few lines of the two options before committing, just to be sure.

Even as child, it was hard not to read those stories through the lens of my own adoption experience.  My sister and I were the main characters in one such adventure. Long before we were born, people made choices for us that determined the outcome of our lives. Before I knew my birth family, the pages for that option were a blank, but now the vague outline of words that could have been my story have begun to take shape. Now, more than ever, I understand what could have been.

It’s really not all that different for any of us, adopted or not. My sons are here because my husband and I chose to conceive them at particular moments in our lives, and hung on to them. My sons are who they are because a particular egg met a particular sperm at a particular time and my body enfolded the union and nurtured them into being. All of us, adopted or not, drop into this world on a spider’s thread of silk out of which our lives are woven. If you’re someone who believes in God, as I do, then God holds the thread and guides the crafting of the web. But still there are people, exercising free will, who have a hand in where you end up. And eventually, as you grow, you have a hand in it, too. There are other theologies, other philosophies, that help people shape their understanding of such complexities, but mine drops me here: at the bottom of a page that offers two options, each with a vastly different outcome.

Option: birth mother decides to keep my twin and me.
Option: birth mother tells our birth father about us when she learns she is pregnant.
Option: birth father, when he learns of us, decides to intervene in the adoption process and reclaim us.

One option leads to another outcome to another, until not just one life, but many, begin to transform. Would my biological brother be here? Would my birth parents have adopted their three children?

More than anything, adoption lays bare the what ifs, the near misses, the could have/would have/should have beens of a life. Biology, on the other hand, often throws a cloak of invisibility over such twists and turns. So many of the choices that led to my sons’ births are hidden to them, or perhaps we have the luxury of not caring. The ones that led to my life are not invisible. Sometimes I am afraid of these options, afraid to look at them too closely, for fear that just looking will set a breeze in motion that will begin to unravel the pattern of my being.

But here’s what grounds me: No one has ever suggested that my twin and I were not to be raised together. That was never an option. It was always a story about the two of us, no matter where we ended up.

Last night, I woke on the other side of the world in the blackness of a cold, concrete house in Morocco. It was so dark that, for a moment, I thought I was blind. My oldest son slept in a bed next to me, snoring lightly, so I was relieved to know that I was not deaf, too. Finally, I found a thin beam of moonlight slipping under the door, and I followed it out of bed and into the hallway. I tiptoed down the cold tiles toward my sister’s room and paused outside the doorway. Just knowing she was there was enough reassurance to guide me back to my own bed.

Just knowing she is here is enough.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Becky permalink
    May 9, 2012 6:41 pm

    Huh. I didn’t see my post up, so I put a new one up as best I could remember.

    I guess now you can Choose Your Own Comment, Jenny. I apologize!

    • twinprint permalink*
      May 16, 2012 1:11 pm

      Ha, Becky. I choose both and I ended up in the same place. I just have a hard time making decisions. 🙂

  2. Becky permalink
    May 9, 2012 6:39 pm

    Best. Analogy. Ever.

    I used to read all the endings in the CYO Adventure series I read. I didn’t like to leave a book even partially unread. I wanted to know all my possible fates, even the ones that lead to instant death.

    Thanks, Jenny!

  3. Becky permalink
    May 9, 2012 6:17 pm


    In the CYO Adventure stories, I always read all of the endings as narrative. I didn’t like to leave a book partially read. I wanted to know all the outcomes, even the ones where my character’s life ended within a few sentences. I wonder what that would look like in my life…

    Thanks, Jenny!

  4. May 8, 2012 5:07 pm

    This is lovely.

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